FISA

Americans Oppose NSA Programs---And Want Snowden Prosecuted

By Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 7:19 AM

That's the mixed message of this new poll from the Pew Center for the People and the Press, which also suggests---among other things---that President Obama's speech is not resonating all that much with the public. In an interesting twist, Republicans disapprove of NSA more than Democrats do. Pew summarizes the poll as follows:

1-20-2014 NSA #2The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds that overall approval of the program has declined since last summer, when the story first broke based on Edward Snowden’s leaked information.

Today, 40% approve of the government’s collection of telephone and internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts, while 53% disapprove. In July, more Americans approved (50%) than disapproved (44%) of the program.

In addition, nearly half (48%) say there are not adequate limits on what telephone and internet data the government can collect; fewer (41%) say there are adequate limits on the government’s data collection. About four-in-ten Republicans (39%) and independents (38%) – and about half of Democrats (48%) – think there are adequate limits on the information that the government can collect.

Reflecting the limited impact of Obama’s address, overall approval of the program and opinions about whether adequate safeguards are in place were no different in three nights of interviewing conducted after the speech (Jan. 17-19) than during the two nights of interviewing conducted prior to the address (Jan. 15-16).

Overall, the public is divided about whether Edward Snowden’s leak of classified information, which brought the program to light, has served or harmed the public interest: 45% say it has served the public interest while 43% say it harmed it. Nonetheless, a 56% majority wants to see the government pursue a criminal case against Snowden, while 32% oppose this. This is little changed from June, shortly after Snowden’s first leaks of information about the program.